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Thousands of 'clinical' pharmacist roles funded by 5-year GP contract

NHS England has opened up "thousands of opportunities" for "clinical" pharmacists to support GPs as part of a multi-billion pound GP funding deal announced today.

GP funding has been increased by £4.5 billion, some of which will be used to recruit an “army” of staff to help practices work together as part of local primary care networks, in the “first major pillaring of the NHS long-term plan”, NHS England said today (January 31).

Pharmacists will become a core part of GP practice teams – along with paramedics and social prescribing support workers – and “will take on an expanded role” within primary care networks – groups of local GP practices covering an average of 50,000 people, NHS England explained.

GP practices will be reimbursed 70% of the cost to recruit a “clinical” pharmacist in 2019-20, capped at £37,810, the commissioning body said.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the new GP contract is “unarguably the biggest boost to primary care in more than 15 years”.

Under the new contract, primary care networks will be established across England by July, and backed by funding of £1.8bn by 2023.

“Confidence in the pharmacy professions”

England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge said the GP contract is “a boost for patient care and a tremendous vote of confidence in the pharmacy professions”.

Work is already underway to recruit “clinical” pharmacists to primary care networks, he said.

These pharmacists will receive additional training to “undertake medication reviews for patients most in need – including those with dementia, cardiovascular disease and other major conditions” – improve medicines safety, support care homes and reduce inappropriate antibiotic use, Dr Ridge explained.

PSNC: Same approach must be taken with pharmacy

Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Simon Dukes said the funding deal gives a “clear indication of the way in which the government and NHS England want primary care services to develop in the foreseeable future”.

The five-year funding package is “exactly the approach the NHS must now take with community pharmacies, so that we too can play our part in improving local healthcare”, Mr Dukes stressed

“For community pharmacy, the changes offer a unique opportunity for us to embed ourselves within primary care…[and] we must engage proactively with [GPs] and find ways to position ourselves within those primary care networks,” he added.

RPS: “Significant step forward”

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English board chair Sandra Gidley said the contract was a “significant step forward to embedding pharmacists’ clinical skills and medicines expertise across all areas of primary care”.

However, Ms Gidley also called for a NHS-wide workforce strategy, to “ensure pharmacists from every sector feel well equipped to deliver high quality healthcare”.

CCA concerned over impact on workforce

The Company Chemists’ Association – which represent the UK’s largest multiples and supermarket pharmacies – raised concerns about the impact the plan could have on the community pharmacy workforce, given existing pressures.

“As with all large-scale change, the nature of the implementation of this deal will be critical to its success,” CCA chief executive Malcolm Harrison said.

“We hope that this five-year package will be mirrored by a similar long-term funding plan for the community pharmacy sector, so that we have the certainty we need to fully play our part in this new system,” he added.

NPA: Contract adds to sector dilemmas

While the National Pharmacy Association welcomed the investment in primary care, it stressed that the push to recruit more “clinical” pharmacists “intensifies the dilemmas faced by community pharmacy owners who invest in training and development, only to see people migrate to general practice”.

“This is a risk that must be carefully managed, so that these new primary care workforce targets genuinely add to capacity.”

What do you make of NHS England's five year GP contract?

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